Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Critical Mom and The Champagne

So far, I'm only anticipating it.  While we were watching Dinner For One, Germany's traditional New Year's Eve ten-minute tribute to Carpe Diem, we had sherry, because Miss Sophie, in the film, has sherry with her mulligatawny soup.  Then we had a little red wine with the appetizers and the baked nachos (my husband makes them with grated Gouda, chopped scallions, and salsa).  A few people are shooting off firecrackers already (yes, you can just buy them at your local Aldi's here . . .) but we're waiting until midnight.  And it's only 9:52 as I write, and two children have said, "Wake me up before midnight, Mom," and my husband is snoozing on the couch.  We did watch The Lord of the Ring and a little CNN, but now I'm just answering e-mail and reading one of my favorite blogs, "Little Earthling."  And I'm remaining upright, although I may just take a little nap.  Our eldest is in China, and sent a Whats App of himself and the other members of the choir singing "Clementine" in Chinese and wishing us Happy New Year.  It's already 2015 in China!  I'll top off the evening with a return to my blog as soon as I've had my champagne.  But now I've got to get the laundry out of the machine.  Oops, didn't manage that--we were watching 2012, apocalyptic enough for the end of the year.  
And now midnight has just come and gone.  I've had my share of champagne, oh bubbly!  Bubbly!  It goes superbly with the fireworks, some of which, thrown enthusiastically by my twelve-year-old, landed not in the road but the neighbor's garden.
"Not in the neighbor's garden!" we yelled.  But that's where the next one went, too.  The neighbor came out on his balcony.  Good thing he wasn't in the yard.
Now, one more sip of champagne, and then I'll toddle off to bed.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Critical Mom's Post-Christmas Moods

It's lovely, the tongues of light on the windowsill from our tree--the electric candles flickering away, and on the table a forgotten glass of white wine, from which, yesterday, someone sipped.  I take a nap, and when I wake up, two of my son's friends, ages eleven and thirteen, have shown up hungry.   They're on a court-mandated weekend visit with their dad, who lives up the hill and who forgot to buy food or didn't bother, and is on his second or third volubly cantankerous relationship with a mail-order bride from a desperately poor country somewhere in Asia.  His first wife, the boys' mother, is in another city with her very wealthy new spouse ("my husband is well-situated," she said timidly, translating from German into English.  In German, that sounds normal but in translation it sounds like a line from a mid-Victorian penny dreadful).  I wonder often how she ever ended up with the boys' father, that ex-football professional whose charming smile is a dead giveaway.  But maybe it wasn't so obvious to a naïve and very Catholic sixteen-year-old who got knocked up.  This is how I imagine things.   But I can't ask and she'd never tell.
We gave the boys pumpkin soup, Bratwurst, and rice and they seemed very cheerful and stuck around to play computer games.   Their new stepfather, whom they hate, provides a lavishly luxurious separate apartment for them and their mother, and spirits her away to romantic getaways while the boys are visiting their father.  When I asked my husband whether we should tell the mother that the dad hadn't been feeding them he thought no.  She may know, but she'd resent it if we did, and the boys don't look underfed.  Back when the mother and the estranged dad were still living in the same building, the dad used to drop them off here and forget to pick them up   Then I wouldn't be able to reach either parent. 
We've got it good.  Our Christmas proved remarkably peaceful.  Long ago in a galaxy far away I belonged to an internet forum that provided humor to anyone who knew they had to invite a certain relative for Christmas or pay big.  You'd pay big anyway, but you'd pay bigger or sooner if you didn't invite her.  I've been over the river and through many dark woods seeking a substitute forum, but nothing else is quite to my taste. 
A Hallowe'en card in which said party joked about haunting us put me on edge:  she's in her nineties (but will probably outlive me, especially if I spend too much time with her) and I'd like for the kids to inherit something.  So we invited her.  Never mind that during the last visit she started squeezing my then five-year-old daughter's thigh in some trancelike return to her own abuse as a child.  Never mind that my eldest, in a rare moment away from her during that exhausting visit said, "Mom, you grew up with that?  You know, I kind of admire you."  Never mind that the minute I invited her I came down with bronchitis.  I've been planning dinner parties for when she's here--her visits are always easier when I pad the room with plenty of other people.  
But there's been a stay of execution:  she can't come, because of an ailment I decline to disclose.  Isn't that awful?  Isn't it the worst thing in the world?  Where's the champagne? 
 P.S.  Happy New Year, Danu Morrigan

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Critical Mom and the Ketchup

I wasn't around for the show--I was in the ladies room--but by the time we were in the car, I was learning that "if they did find your cell phone, the mess was such that they would probably throw it away," and "now, Mom, just let me tell you my side of the story," accompanied by the twelve-year-old's hysterical giggles.  It was worth the giggles, but I guess we'll never dare set foot in that restaurant again.  Apparently, during those few moments when I was answering a call of nature, the twelve-year-old squeezed on the plastic ketchup bottle, "not because I wanted any on my Schnitzel, mom, but I just thought it was like only half full and I was bored."
Hee, hee, hee.  Hee, hee, hee.  He has to stop talking because he's laughing so hard he can't breathe. 
"And then what happened?"
"Well, then I really just squeezed as hard as I could!  I mean, I REALLY thought it was empty!"
"And then the fireworks happened?" asks my husband.
"Did you see it?" I asked, ready to inquire why he hadn't stopped our little force of nature.
"No, but I saw the results.  Quite impressive.  The white tablecloth.  The wineglasses."  An entry might have been made in the Guinness Book of World Records on ketchup-squirting.  But we are all safe and sound, and it's almost Christmas, and there are good detergents out there among the Bavarian housewives, "and REALLY, Mom, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!"

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Critical Mom's Seasonal Bronchitis

At least I hope that's all it is.  Six years ago I went through pneumonia and occasionally I have a touch of asthma.  Besides, I have already consumed more than my fair share of antibiotics this year . . . what with the revenge of Atahualpa in Peru, the trips to the local botica where they handed out Cipro like candy the moment they saw that I was 
(a) a non-native speaker and 
(b) writhing with embarrassment as well as the need to use body language to tell them what was the matter with me.  
Then I got over that bout, but at the end of the trip there was all that campylobacteria that I apparently consumed in the local cilantro . . .or the ice cubes . . . or something; anyway Cipro down the hatch again.
So I'd like to avoid a third round of antibiotics now, especially since the Internet tells me that even if you're coughing up yellow goo, it's probably viral rather than bacterial, so probably won't be chased off by the Clarithromycin that I do have some of, but haven't yet ingested.  (I read all the possible side effects . . . oh, is that ever a sign of middle age, and they are scary.)  Maybe the onion poultice I tried will work.  (All ya gotta do is chop an onion or two, simmer them in water until they're soft, lift them onto a clean kitchen towel or cloth, fold them in securely as if you were wrapping a tortilla around a gooey mess of chicken and vegetables, and slap it on your chest for as long as you can stand).  I did that twice today.  I'm going to add fresh ginger next time.  I'm taking Sinupret and Umckaloabo.  My chest is marginally clearer; I hope I don't have to go for the hard stuff, but it is nice to know it's there.  I'll try a little red wine, too.  Any reader know of any other home remedies?  

Day 2:  (Actually, I've been sick for five days, but at first it was "just a cold.") I caved in and took the Clarithromycin.  But before I did, I tried  yet another onion-and-fresh-ginger hot poultice.  And it did have some, minor, effect.  As did the gallons of fruit tea with honey, hunk-of-ginger-in-boiling water, coffee (strong) and breathing exercises.   Yes, I did give the natural way the old college try . . .  meanwhile, two hours after 500 milligrams of the magic bullet, my chest already feels clearer.  Well, what would one expect of somebody who grew up practically teething on antibiotics?  That was just the way New Yorkers did things back in the sixties when I was growing up.  Every cold was accompanied by a bottle of syrupy, green Chlorotrimeton, an antihistamene, plus Penicillin.   (I remember those Pen-Vee tablets.) Strep throats, ear infections . . . as our jovial pediatrician said, "Ear infections pay the pediatricians rent."   I had a childhood of asthma and generally poor health, which may have had something to do with all that green syrup and antibiotics, but my immune system, pampered, or weakened, seems to need the stuff now.  Go figure.  Now that I'm feeling better it seems so very unfair that I'll have to relinquish my evening glass of sweet red wine for the duration of the antibiotic regimen!  But okay, yes indeedy, of course I'll do it . . . especially since I ought to be well by Christmas, when I plan to indulge in cookies, too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Critical Mom and Richard III

Now, folks, what I have in common with Richard III---drumroll:  I do have something in common with His Majesty--is scoliosis.  He of the twisted spine!  Yes, that was one of the characteristics that the anthropologists trusted the most when they identified that fifteenth-century skeleton found beneath a parking lot and said to be that of Richard.  Then there's the intriguing find that he was illegitimate.  There's a trait I'd like to share with him.  Could I really be the child of my mother and my father?  I'm afraid neither of them had the energy for an affair during their marriage, which took up, really, absolutely all of their time.  But it would have been so nice to have discovered some noble, or in Richard's case ignoble, but at any rate, different ancestral line, in my case.
In Richard's case the different ancestral line . . . the one apparently proving that he seems not to have been of the royal house from which he claimed to be descended  . . .  hmmm, did he know?  And was that why he was always so evil and grumpy, at least in Shakespeare's version of him?  Shakespeare really knew how illegitimacy could disappoint one.  Think of Edmund in King Lear:

Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I

Stand in the plague of custom and permit

The curiosity of nations to deprive me

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines

Lag of a brother? Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us

With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,” “base”—

Who in the lusty stealth of nature take

More composition and fierce quality

Than doth within a dull, stale, tirèd bed

Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops

Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.

Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate.—Fine word, “legitimate”!—

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper.

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
Just think what being a bastard can do for you:  you worship Nature, instead of God, and that, back in sixteenth-century England, was probably a hanging offense.  (Nature was after all female.  And pre-dated Christianity.  She played chess with the pieces of Stonehenge).  Plus marriage ruined sex, Edmund was claiming.  Bastards were the only ones, he believed, whose parents had enjoyed producing them.  Which leads to his final line:  "Now, Gods, have some erections in support of bastards!"  So to speak.  A line which "No Fear Shakespeare" glosses most bowdlerizingly as "Three cheers for bastards."  Yes.  Well.  
Back to Richard:  Oh, What if?  What if not only I were illegitimate, like Richard, but what if he were the current queen's great-great-great-somethingorother?  Would the descendents of Mary, Queen of Scots, if she had any, get to charge in and claim the throne?  Or some other even rowdier ancestors?  Stay tuned.  Hala Gorani just trotted us all through the basics on CNN, but I can't wait to hear what happens next.